Welcome to the latest edition of Best Ski News 2014, where we aim to bring you the latest news from the slopes. We try to cover everything from snow conditions to major events, so that you’re up to date with all the goings on. This weeks there’s some exciting news about new resorts, which might reopen the old debate that it’s more fun to ski vs snowboard. So, to business…
After the heavy snowfall at the start of December it has been a fairly dry few weeks in much of the Alps. Those already on the slopes have been able to enjoy getting on the fresh snow at the ski areas that have already opened.
It has not been a total no show for new snow so far, however, north-western America has reported big snowfalls over the weekend that added up to two feet (60cm) of fresh powder. Ski resorts around Lake Tahoe in California had snowfall and there was smaller but still significant accumulations in Steamboat plus other resorts in Colorado and Utah.
In Europe the snow fell mostly in the Eastern Alps and Eastern Europe, so the season is getting off to a good start in Bulgaria and Slovenia. While Austrian resorts received up to 20cm of snow, as did some in eastern Switzerland including Davos.
Scandinavian ski areas, which have had a rather slow start to 2013-14 with limited natural snow, have enjoyed good snowfalls too. But it has been less promising news for the chance of Christmas and new year skiing in Scotland, as temperatures have shot up to double figures, making it one of the warmest place in the UK, wiping out much of the cover.
Some estimates have put the spend on the Sochi Olympic ski venues at £12 billion (more than the entire London Olympics). That’s excluding all the building down by the Black Sea coast and in Sochi itself, making it the most expensive Olympics since the Beijing summer games.
The money has in part gone to Austrian lift builders Doppelmayr who have completed 35 new lifts for the Sochi Games venues in the biggest construction project in the company’s 100+ year history..
The company built sixteen lifts for three resorts in the area between 2004 and 2010 but have completed another nineteen this autumn. Most of the lifts are funitels (giant gondolas running on twin wires like cable cars but constantly circulating like gondolas, drag or chairlifts) and are high capacity, high speed chairlifts. They include the world’s longest gondola and a funitel capable of carrying motor vehicles if roads are blocked by snow. A further four lifts have already been ordered for construction after the games.
Almost half of the lifts are for the Rosa Khutor resort, another fourteen for Laura/Psekhako (Gazprom) and the remainder for Alpika Service. Altogether more than 50 lifts have been built by Doppelmayr and other lift companies at four ski areas, with a rumoured joint-lift-pass to be offered after the Games.
It remains to be seen how well these ski areas will operate after the Olympics in the legacy period. But on paper, at least, they are the world’s most state-of-the-art resorts and have come from nowhere to rival the best in Europe and North America for the number and quality of their lifts.
American Sports psychologists have carried out a study which they say found that skiers seem to gain more pleasure from their sport than snowboarders do theirs. So does this answer the debate of whether it is more fun to ski vs snowboard?
Hyun-Woo Lee, a sports scientist at Florida State University led the research in which 279 people were questioned at three different ski resorts in South Korea (a country not famous for its powder snow or boarding culture) about how their sport made them feel. Which found that, both skiers and snowboarders benefited from a day in the mountains with even those who only headed to the slopes occasionally seemed to receive an, “emotional boost.”
The survey showed that on average the skiers rated their own level of pleasure and involvement in their sport around five times higher than those who snowboarded or did both sports. The researchers believe this is because skiers are more immersed in their activity when moving down a slope than snowboarders, possibly.
However some snowboarders have commented that they’re typically happier and more relaxed than most skiers in the first place and that skiers need to be five times happier to match the snowboarder’s normal level of happiness. Really we are no closer to finding out whether it is more fun to ski vs snowboard….
Its also worth pointing out that a survey of 279 people in South Korea is hardly representative of the global ski and snowboard population.
A rare new black run opens at the Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun in Austria this month, an event so unusual that the new trail has been given its own intimidating name – the Black Mamba.
Pitching itself as a rival to Austria’s official steepest groomed piste, the 1.1km long Harakiri slope at Mayrhofen, Black Mamba (aka ‘extreme piste’ number 14 on the map) will plunge 290 vertical metres from the valley station of the Kristallbahn lift and finish at Langweid. Although steep, it does not quite match up to Harakiri’s max 78%, as Black mamba will only (maybe not the right word) be ‘up to 63%’.
If you feel stuck on that ‘intermediate plateau’ on the piste and want to get in to freeriding, then a new course from The International Academy (international-academy.com), in partnership with ski school Evolution 2 in the world’s freeride capital, Chamonix, could be what you need.
The all-new course will teach key off piste skills over a weekend. It’s open to anyone with a good intermediate level of skiing and will prepare participants for all aspects of the descent of the 22km Vallee Blanche. The course includes three days of training (six hours a day) and a descent of Vallee Blanche on the Monday, with departure dates on the 23rd January or the 13th March 2014.
You may not be aware of where the USA’s biggest ski area is located. For many years Vail has held the ‘biggest’ title, but now two formerly separate but lift and piste connected ski areas in Montana have come under single ownership and are now claiming the ‘biggest in the US’ title.
Moonlight Basin, once a separate resort, is now an ‘area’ of the longer-established Big Sky Resort. ‘Big Sky Resort’ is now made up of four mountains, including another formerly separate centre at Spirit Mountain (Big Sky acquired 200+ acres in July 2013 with lift access to Big Sky Resort, Flat Iron Mountain, Andesite Mountain, and Lone Mountain). All four mountains make up 5,750 acres of ski terrain and are connected by chairlift.
That’s it for week 2 of the Best Ski News 2014. All that’s left is to get out there and decide if it’s more fun to ski vs snowboard. Happy Christmas and see you next year.